Should 16 year olds be able to vote?

It’s not just a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’


By Nicole Biagioni, Collegian Columnist

On March 6th, U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressle proposed an amendment that would lower the federal voting age from 18 to 16. This sparked conversation across the country. Should 16-year-olds be able to cast their ballot at the local polls? Even politicians like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi have publicly supported this amendment. But that’s only Pelosi’s opinion; not everyone is going to share it.

To see for myself what people in my cohort thought about this topic, I conducted an informal poll via my Instagram account. The question was simple: Should 16-year-olds be able to vote? Among my participating peers, 79 percent of the respondents answered ‘no’ while 21 percent answered ‘yes.’ This informal poll reflects broader public opinion: overall, a majority(81 percent) of people across the country agree that 16-year-olds shouldn’t vote.

Many countries have a standard voting age of 18. Of the 237 countries and governing territories in the World Atlas list, over 200 have a voting age of 18, and 14 countries have an even higher voting age. Voting ages range from as low as 16 in Cuba to as high as 25 in the United Arab Emirates. An example of a country lowering its voting age would be Scotland: when Scotland lowered the voting age for the Independence Referendum in 2014, and that was considered a success, the Scottish Parliament voted unanimously to officially lower it to 16 in 2015.

I will tell you firsthand that I am against the voting age being lowered. I have been conflicted on this subject for weeks, going back and forth on the pros and cons of the situation, and I have to go with my gut instinct on this subject. This isn’t a matter of people not wanting to change the old laws to be more progressive, but more so that 16 is just too young.

I call into question whether this age group is mature enough to vote. Teens are known for reckless behavior, including some recent examples such as eating Tide Pods, putting salt and ice on bare skin or eating large quantities of cinnamon as internet challenges to receive views. This is just plain stupidity that everyone knows is not safe. At the same time, scientifically, 16-year-olds are questionable when it comes to their maturity. The brain does not fully develop until age 25. Unlike adults who make decisions using the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that makes rational decisions, adolescents use the amygdala, the emotional part of the brain, to make decisions that later cannot be explained. Granted, some teens are more mature than others, but the majority isn’t quite ready to check off a box at the polls.

Now, would they take voting seriously? Let’s be honest, for high school elections we didn’t care about voting because it wouldn’t affect us in the long run; compare that to voting for a representative or president who will in turn make changes to the tax rates, gun reform or health care, directly affecting the citizen. Although younger voters will care and educate themselves about issues that affect them, they may not care about other issues that don’t affect them directly.

Yet, people can argue a few points in favor of the teens. Consider 16-year-olds being able to vote in local elections. At that point in their life, local politics might impact them the most. If we allowed 16-year-olds to vote in local elections, it could start good habits that may carry on into adulthood. This could increase the voter turnout over time. But, historically, the demographic between the ages of 18 and 29 years old have continuously low voter turnouts. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, during the 2016 Presidential election, the voter turnout of this demographic was merely 46.1 percent.

Another thing to consider is that 17-year-olds can enlist with parental consent and serve in the military, yet they cannot vote. If a 17-year-old were serving to protect this nation and yet not allowed to vote for the next Commander in Chief, this would be an instance to make an exception or lower the voting age. This goes along the lines where soldiers could serve their country but not have alcohol because they were too young. But at the end of the day, 16-year-olds are not quite ready to vote. Keep the voting age where it is.

Nicole Biagioni is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]